Peer Mediation Programs: An End to School Violence?

By: Alixandra Blitz

Volume 4.2


The scene is from a movie – they entered a building dressed in long black coats, armed with loaded guns, ammunition, and homemade bombs.[1] They tore through the halls searching for their victims and caused mass hysteria.[2] One-by-one, they killed their enemies at point-blank range until they ended their siege by turning the guns on themselves.[3] Shortly after 11:30 a.m., on April 20th 1999, this horrific event came to a devastating end with 13 dead plus the two gunmen.[4] “They” are Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two juniors at Columbine High School, who, in those few minutes, changed the face of Littleton, Colorado, and the rest of our nation. The diabolic murder plot executed at Columbine High School has forever altered how parents, teachers, administrators, and students feel about school safety around the country.

Schools across America scrambled to implement safe school programs to protect students from one another. With events like the shooting at Columbine[5] at the forefront of media reports,[6]coupled with a misbelief that school violence was on the rise,[7] parents, teachers, administrators and students were fearful that they might also become the next victim of a student ostracized from school society. [8] The heightened awareness resulting from such events led to misplaced efforts by many schools which, as a result, implemented Peer Mediation Programs (“PMP”) that use “trained student mediators to resolve disputes among fellow students.”[9] However, in acting swiftly, schools failed to examine the nature of the extreme and violent acts as they occurred within their school walls. This examination would have required school to look at both the type and extent of violence, as well as to create a profile of violent students.[10] Such a sudden and frenzied response has produced ineffective and misplaced efforts in addressing the actual dangers posed. Without understanding that school violence was changing qualitatively and not quantitatively,[11] schools implemented programs that were unsuited to prevent acts of violence comparable to Columbine.[12]

PMPs miss those students who are not obviously antagonistic to the system. Considering that violence frequently is a mode of non-communication, a failure of words, it may be that those who do not speak, but who are building bombs at home, are closer to extreme acts of violence than those who contest, argue, or fight. Therefore, PMPs are not the solution for combating high levels of school violence. Instead, many of the programs that have been implemented since Columbine, at best have prevented low-levels of violence, such as name calling and gossiping, from escalating into something more extreme.

This note focuses on the ineffectiveness of PMPs to combat higher-levels of school violence. Part I discusses school violence, both past and present.[13] Part II explores the shift from traditional methods of discipline to more proactive and education-based methods that are used in many schools today. Part III addresses the fundamentals of peer mediation including what it is and how it is implemented. Part IV examines which students PMPs should be targeting and why PMPs fail to prevent them from committing violent acts on their schools. Finally, the conclusion recommends ways to reduce conflict in schools.

I.                SCHOOL VIOLENCE

Schools traditionally were thought of as safe havens for children.[14] However, schools were never without violence.[15] Students have always fought on the playground, engaged in fistfights, stole property, and quarreled over friendships.[16] However, since the early 1990s, American schools have faced heightened levels of violence.[17] In 1998, an eighteen-year-old male high school student in Fayetteville, Tennessee, was shot dead by a peer in a dispute over a girl.[18] Three days later in Springfield, Oregon, a high school sophomore killed two students and wounded twenty when he opened fire in the school cafeteria, just one day after he killed both his parents.[19] Earlier that year, the scene was very similar at a school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where four students and a teacher were killed by two students.[20] In April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen in a killing spree at Columbine High School.[21] During the 1997-98 school year alone, forty students were killed on school property.[22]

                  Despite the repeated media coverage of school shootings, youths in America are being arrested for fewer violent crimes today than in the past and are also at a lower risk rate for being victims of such crimes.[23] The national rate for serious violent crimes committed by youths, including murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, declined 33% between 1993 and 1997.[24] The number of crimes in and around schools has also declined.[25] From 1993 to 1996, the combined school crime rate for violent and nonviolent crimes fell 22%.[26] While fewer students are carrying weapons and fewer fights are occurring on school grounds, it does not change the fact that today’s school violence has become more lethal, due to increasing incidents that involve gunfire, resulting in fatalities and, in some cases, multiple victims.[27]


With the advent of public school systems came the need for disciplinary methods to keep students safe and in control. Traditionally, school discipline meant “subservience of the individual will to the will of the teacher,” much like that of military discipline.[28] Corporal punishment was the most prevalent disciplinary method due to its immediate and deterrent effects on would-be or chronic offenders.[29] However, with flourishing public education facilities, increasing school enrollment, and an increase of student unrest during the 1960s, new disciplinary techniques replaced corporal punishment, since it no longer had the same immediate impact in a large environment­.[30] During the 1960s and early 1970s, suspension and expulsion gained widespread use by many schools.[31]

These exclusionary tactics provided an efficient way to handle large numbers of disruptive youths, offered protection to the student body, and provided administrators with a sense of control over the uncontrollable.[32] Such methods of punishment were not, and still are not, without dangers. For example, exclusionary tactics are more likely to cause students to drop out of school, lose respect for authority, and feel alienated. Furthermore, such tactics have led to asocial behavior, increased delinquency, feelings of self-defeat, isolation and disenfranchisement.[33] Despite these negative consequences, during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, in-school suspension was the most common form of punishment.[34]

The stricter method of zero tolerance policies,[35] including detention and suspension, were adopted in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the U.S. began to see an increase in the violent nature of school violence.[36] These punitive measures of punishment are still employed today as a reaction to an increased awareness of deadly school violence.[37] However, in addition to these more traditional approaches, school districts have looked to preventative measures such as installing metal detectors,[38] video surveillance, campus police squads, and student profiling to deter school violence.[39]

The problem with punitive measures of discipline as used in the past, and still employed today, is that they only seem to enhance students’ feeling of dominance by teachers and administrators[40] and create general feelings of distrust.[41] When placed in suspension, a student’s desire not to be dominated leads to thoughts of how to dominate those who treat him/her as inferior. Rather than promoting partnership, dominator regression results whereby thoughts of violence are provoked instead of eliminated.[42] The end result of repressive action “exclude[s] and alienate[s] those very students most at risk of getting involved in acts of violence.”[43] Students view such repressive policies as attempts by the school to marginalize them, and further, as a violation of their rights.[44]

With this reactionary form of domination, it is difficult to support safe school plans that require further dominance in order to achieve control of the school.[45] This type of stampede crackdown on youth violence employs heavy-handed and counterproductive measures that are only likely to lead to further resistance and rebellion.[46] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which defends students whose rights have been violated by their school, reported that nationwide it receives calls about suspensions or expulsions for things typically viewed as self-expression because schools believe them to reflect potentially dangerous behaviors.[47] Despite these reports, almost one and a half million students miss school due to expulsion or suspension each year.[48]

“In reaction to the deficiencies of reactive, punitive and negative forms of school discipline, several new perspectives on reducing indiscipline and violence in schools emerged.”[49] Starting in the late 1980s and 1990s, school officials and legislators began realizing the need to respond to school violence in a host of new ways.[50] Punitive methods of preventing violence do not work in today’s society where bombs and guns have replaced fistfights and playground brawls as methods of choice among students committing violent acts.[51] As an alternative, schools, often with the support of state legislatures,[52] began using a combination of restorative,[53] rehabilitative, and educational programs.[54] While there is no single, universal solution, a solution that is proactive, concerted, and strategic in putting school violence in its rightful context is a good starting point to minimize confrontation.[55] With this in mind, many educators implemented school-based prevention programs focused on peer mediation (“PM”), or more broadly, conflict resolution (“CR”).[56]


Peer mediation is a negotiation-based strategy that teaches student mediators techniques to resolve conflicts among their peers.[57] When there is a dispute at school, the mediators, either student-student or teacher-student teams, become neutral third parties and work with the disputants through CR.[58] Schools around the world “have implemented peer mediation programs of various shapes and sizes, with the expectation that violence and suspension will be reduced, school climates will improve, and students will learn and take with them essential life skills.”[59]

PMPs are essential in some form due to the fact that many young people do not know how to effectively manage jealousy, teasing, and physical aggression, all of which may result in juvenile delinquency and violence.[60] Therefore, “[t]he aim of these programs is to teach young people how to handle conflict by making rational choices, to consider the possible consequences of their behaviors, and to work out alternative solutions that do not involve violence….”[61] The National Association for Mediation in Education estimated that there were approximately 2,000 CR programs in United States schools in 1992, and 5,000 to 8,000 CR programs in 1994.[62]

PMPs of the 1990s grew out of several older, community-based programs and movements of the mid-1970s.[63] One such community-based mediation program was the Community Boards Program in San Francisco, a grass roots movement promoting dispute resolution alternatives withoutusing official legal avenues.[64] Another such program was the Resolving Conflicts Creatively, enacted in New York City public schools and developed by attorneys and child advocates.[65] In the earliest education programs, Quaker notions of non-violent resolution of conflicts were introduced into schools through organizations such as Children’s Creative Response to Conflict.[66]

The goal of PMPs is for students to learn how to deflate a minor conflict before it escalates into a more serious incident.[67] The underpinning of peer mediation is the belief that conflict can be good; it is both necessary and positive.[68] Conflict is viewed as “crucial to the moral development of children, their acquisition of a sense of social order, and the development of communicative ability.”[69]Therefore, one aim of PMPs is to resolve conflict in positive ways.[70] PMPs achieve this objective by giving youth, mediators, and disputants nonviolent tools and skills to deal with these daily conflicts that could otherwise lead to self-destructive and violent behaviors.[71]

Participation in peer mediation is voluntary, and, with the exception of information that is illegal or life threatening, all matters discussed in the sessions remain confidential.[72] Key to the process is the idea that student mediators do not make judgments or offer advice, nor do they have the power to force decisions upon their peers.[73] Rather, students come to mediation and are guided by peer mediators to move from blaming each other to generating solutions acceptable to all parties.[74]

The role of the peer mediator is to help students come to a “win-win” rather than a “win-lose” resolution to the conflict.[75] Mediators achieve this outcome by identifying the interests that lie beneath the dispute.[76] Once the root of the problem has been identified, the mediator suggests solutions or facilitates the disputants to come up with a solution on their own. Once a solution is reached, the peer mediator helps to put it in writing.[77]

PMPs can be designed and executed in a host of ways to meet the particular and individualized needs of each school. Some PMPs are used in more informal settings, such as on the playground, while other programs bring student mediators and their peer mediation techniques into the classroom to resolve disputes.[78] Other more formal programs establish a mediation office in which all peer mediations occur.[79] Some schools limit the use of PMPs to certain types of disputes, such as student-student or teacher-student disputes, while other programs require adult supervision.[80] Despite the variety of possible program structures, similar core principles govern most PMPs. These principles include extensive training of mediators; outreach to and understanding by students, school staff, and parents; confidentiality and trust; and full support of staff and administration.[81]

In deciding how to structure and implement PMPs, schools need to address many questions: How to choose which students will be peer mediators? What types of problems are amenable to PMPs? How, and by whom, will students be referred? Who will supervise mediation? How much training is required of supervisors and peer mediators? How will disputants use peer mediation? How will the school garner support for the program among students and teachers to achieve a total buy-in? Should there be parent involvement? How should the program be evaluated?[82] The effectiveness of the program depends on how a school answers and deals with these questions. Furthermore, crucial to a successful implementation are committed leadership, consistency, quality mediators, logistics, disputant follow-up, and ongoing publicity.[83] By not devoting enough time to this preliminary planning stage, schools are practically guaranteed ineffective programs. These factors work to either facilitate or impede the program’s success.

Perhaps the most important element of a PMP is the training of peer mediators.[84] The training includes the development of basic communication skills such as active listening and clarifying questions, as well as specific techniques to help a student diffuse a potentially volatile situation.[85] Such techniques include separating oneself from the situation, attacking the problem not the people, focusing on the issue and not personal views, communicating clearly, accepting and respecting differing opinions, and focusing on areas of common agreement.[86] Training techniques such as simulations and problem exercises are extremely helpful toward building these skills.[87] Training is crucial because student mediators must feel competent and comfortable with their roles. Additionally, disputants must feel the mediators are competent.[88] However, once comprehensive training is completed, continued support and feedback from peer trainers and administrators are necessary.[89] While peer mediators are the focus of such programs, schools may consider commencing PMPs by first training school staffers to mediate.[90] By doing this, program longevity can be achieve since students will eventually graduate leaving only school staffers to retrain.[91]

A second key element to the success of a PMP program is tailoring it to the needs of the particular school.[92] Age level considerations should be one of the first questions raised in this area. While PMPs have been most common at the high school level, many junior high and elementary schools have also implemented them.[93] When used at the primary school level, or even the junior high level, co-mediators or supervisors may be needed. In contrast, at the high school level students may be able to handle the sessions on their own.[94] A second question to address is what types of problems will be addressed by PMPs. Some schools might even decide to mix traditional disciplinary measures with these more holistic approaches creating a dual system of sorts.[95]

The third key element is implementation of the program. Here, schools need to ensure through education that all students, as well as the community, respect the program.[96] Next, these programs must remain flexible, for opportunities to refine and revise the procedures are necessary.[97]Considering that it is important for students to feel like they are a part of the program, PMPs must remain flexible and open to participant input.[98] Finally, some programs might set up a mediation room solely for the program so that students know where to go when a conflict arises. Other schools might elect to designate a point-person who uses his or her office or classroom to conduct the sessions.[99] Either way, it is imperative that students are aware of the locations and schedule of the program beforehand so that disputants can find assistance when the dispute occurs.[100] While these are only a few of the relevant factors that need to be assessed, each one should be given proper consideration. Poor management of even one factor can result in the failure of a PMP.

Despite a lack of reliable research on PMPs,[101] there are many comparative and informal studies that report PMPs are a promising strategy for improving school climate.[102] Success rates of 58% to 93% have been achieved at various schools where success was measured by whether an agreement was reached and maintained.[103] In Reece Peterson and Russell Skiba’s article, Creating School Climates that Prevent School Violence, Peterson and Skiba detailed results from one middle school whereby 83% of trained peer mediator reported “win-win” settlements whereas 86% of untrained students reported “win-lose” outcomes.[104] Peterson and Skiba report other positive effects of PMPs. Aside from fewer referrals to the office and decreased rates of suspension,[105] there are changes in the way students approach conflict, attitudes towards negotiation, increase in self-esteem and academic achievement,[106] empowerment of teens to deal better with life’s inevitable conflicts, and appreciation for diversity.[107]

Furthermore, in comparing conflict strategies used by untrained students to those used by trained students, PMPs appear to work some magic. A number of studies have reported that untrained students in the face of conflict withdraw, suppress, force/coerce, intimidate, and generally employ win-lose strategies.[108] In comparison, trained students approach conflict by facing it. They learn, retain, and apply problem-solving procedures to deal with conflict, ultimately engaging in win-win negotiations.[109] Overall, PMPs are viewed as a good alternative to discipline as they target the causes of violence and, unlike the traditional disciplinary methods, do not move the violence elsewhere in the community.[110]

The success of PMPs is not automatic and is highly dependant upon the planning and execution of the program.[111] For this reason, many PMPs have failed to stop the violence.[112] Their ineffectiveness is a result of many factors. Many programs are poorly targeted and program materials do not focus on program implementation.[113] In addition, schools often have unrealistic expectations.[114] In general, mediators appear to benefit more from learning mediation than the disputants benefit from using it. Additionally, mediation often only gets at the surface, failing to address the underlying issues[115] that student mediators are not prepared to address.[116] A lack of shared understanding about the program’s central purpose is also a frequent reason cited for program failure.[117]

On paper, an implementation plan for a PMP might seem to meet the needs of schools to reduce deadly violence. However, the juggling of too many crucial factors, discussed above, often results in program failure. Furthermore, on paper, PMPs appear to be able to resolve all problems in schools through the use of mediation. However, such expectations are dangerous and unrealistic.


PMPs are ineffective as tools for combating high levels of school violence. The reason relates to two major issues: PMPs, at best, can only address low-levels of school violence, and PMPs do not properly target those students committing higher-level acts of violence.

PMPs work best at combating disputes arising from personal differences such as arguments between friends, playground fights, property/theft issues,[118] and verbal harassment like name calling, threats, and gossiping.[119] In one of the larger and more reliable studies,[120] PMPs were implemented over a 2-year period in a high school, intermediate school and elementary school in Honolulu, Hawaii.[121] In this study, the types of conflict seen with the highest occurrences were gossip/rumor (27%), harassment (27%), arguments (20%), and classroom behavior (9%).[122] The issues in theseforms of conflict are simple enough for the peer mediation process. However, in dealing with a student who the school fears may commit higher-level acts of violence, such as using a semiautomatic rifle to fire at a crowd gathered in a school cafeteria[123] or initiating a massacre during a false fire alarm,[124]more complex issues are involved, which student mediators are not prepared to deal with.[125]Unfortunately, the reality is that the most potentially volatile disputes entail more serious issues than individual or personal differences and misunderstandings. Therefore, PMPs are ineffective in combating higher-levels of school violence..[126]

The events that occurred at Columbine High School support the proposition that more complex issues are not suited for peer mediation. Fifteen months prior to the massacre at Columbine, both perpetrators had gone through a diversion program for youth offenders after being caught breaking into an electrician’s van.[127] Both boys passed the program with flying colors.[128] Although a diversion program is not the same as a PMP, the goal is the same – to reform offenders.[129] The program failed to get at the complex issues underlying the boys’ robbery and, therefore, failed to prevent their next, more violent, act of terror.[130] Moreover, peer mediation is ineffective if, like the two boys from Littleton, Colorado, the students are smart and highly manipulative so as to fool the mediators.[131] Spotting this manipulation is something a student mediator may not be sophisticated enough to detect and not all programs have adult supervisors.

In a PMP at Brandon High School in New York, peer mediation was not an effective tool to deal with the deep rooted and complex problems students were having. Through a year-long study, it was found that 44 students went through mediation more than once.[132] In one specific case, the same person sat through two mediations in one day with a different disputant each time. Another student, who had lost his father that year, had gone to mediation eight times.[133] In both cases, the underlying issues were left unspoken and the violence continued.[134]

The second major reason why PMPs fail in preventing higher-level acts of violence is that they do not target the proper students who are committing volatile acts. To understand how to target these students, schools first need to understand which students are committing the more serious acts. To do this, families, teachers, and administrators need to look for certain signals or factors to pick out more dangerous students. Common signals include: social withdrawal; excessive feelings of isolation and rejection; feelings of being picked on; being victims of violence; poor academic performance; expression of violence; uncontrolled anger; disciplinary problems; intolerance for difference or prejudice; and inappropriate possession of, or use of, firearms.[135] However, PMPs are often not equipped to find students who suffer from or deal with these factors.[136] The reason for this oversight can be attributed to the tendency of these students to not maintain a high profile among their peers while flying below the radar of administration and teachers.[137] This raises two problems for PMPs. First, to get students into a PMP, there needs to be a problem to resolve. Unfortunately, it is generally the case that students who commit highly violent acts do so for the first time once it is too late to help. The second problem is that even if these students act out in school, resulting in the need for peer mediation, it is critical to the success of PMPs that students are supportive of the forum and buy into it to help spread the non-violent norms of peer mediation.[138] However, such widespread acceptance of PMPs is unlikely among students who are disinterested in school and who see the world as their enemy. Finally, PMPs can be an effective tool that works for rational people with small, resolvable problems.[139] Unfortunately, many disputes are not caused by small resolvable problems, and the disputants can often seem irrational.[140] The fault of PMPs is that they can only treat those who are suffering from normal adolescent or childhood problems and not the more sophisticated problems facing dangerous students.


PMPs, as a quick and frenzied reaction to an increased fear of heightened levels of school violence, are not an appropriate measure.[141] While PMPs can be an effective preventative tool,[142] it appears that many schools use the programs as a “mop up” for all the problems that may exist within the school. However, PMPs are not the answer. According to William DeJong, of the Harvard School of Public Health, “[t]he best school-based violence prevention programs seek to do more than reach the individual child. They instead try to change the total school environment, to create a safe community that lives by a credo of non-violence and multi-cultural appreciation.”[143]

Schools first need to understand that the implementation of a mediation program is about conflict education in schools, not about using peer mediation to stop violence. Schools also need to view conflict as a natural and a positive thing. Once schools embrace this philosophy or outlook, they need to assess their schools to identify risky conflict, that is conflict that will lead to violence and conflict that has potential to do good. The types of risky conflicts then need to be assessed. Schools might begin by asking such questions as: Is it conflict between students and students? Students and teachers? Is it conflict based on racism among the students? Schools cannot address the problems within their doors without first having knowledge as to the roots of the conflict. After making an assessment, schools can then come up with appropriate responses to violence as it occurs in their school.

In formulating an effective plan, it is most important to view the school as a system in which conflicts are managed and take on a whole-school approach. Management cannot occur only by preventative measures alone, but must embody a holistic approach as well. Therefore, such programs must address the real risks, implementing programs to minimize them and identifying the real opportunities to develop creative programming. The Centre for Conflict Resolution (“CCR”) is a great example of an organization that understands the need for a holistic approach to CR. CCRs Dealing with Conflict Creatively (“DWCC”) program aids schools in dealing with conflict as it occurs within the school.[144] DWCC works with students, parents, and teachers to build a community that can diagnose, prevent, and creatively respond to conflict situations.[145] DWCC offers focused workshops individually tailored to each school’s needs and training for teachers and school staff, which CCR believes is crucial to the program’s effectiveness.[146] CCR’s aim “is to provide a practical and applicable understanding of conflict that empowers a team of staff to develop a greater understanding of issues in their school.”[147]Programs like DWCC can alleviate tension within schools, minimizing violence. However, such programs must be viewed as long-term solutions and not quick remedies.

In approaching violence holistically, schools have many tools at their disposal. By thinking creatively, schools can use a combination of peer courts, peer facilitated discussion on relevant topics, mental health help, classes on coping with adolescent problems, multicultural sensitivity training, guidance counselors, after-school programs, mentoring programs, curriculum infusion,[148] and other types of mediation.[149] By looking beyond the school walls, such programs as community-school partnerships, community gun programs, and parent involvement can also enter into the mix.[150]Selecting the right tools is like coming up with a recipe for conflict minimization. The types of holistic programs are endless with the only limitation being a failure to think creatively.

[1] See Ed Andrieski, Fatalities in H.S. Attack, at (Apr. 20, 1999) (last visited Mar. 15, 2002).

[2] See id.

[3] See Rick Wilking, Colorado Shooters Had Larger Plot, at (Apr. 26, 1999) (last visited Mar. 15, 2002).

[4] See Andrieski, supra note 1; see also Wilking, supra note 3.

[5] On April 20, 1999 at 11:30 in the morning, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School in the suburbs of Denver and went on a shooting spree. See Andrieski, supra note 1. By the end of their spree, the two young boys, who were juniors at the school, had killed twelve of their peers and a teacher before they turned their guns on themselves in a suicide mission. See Wilking, supra note 3. The gunmen apparently belonged to a clique of outcasts called the “Trench Coat Mafia.” See Andrieski, supra note 1. Members of this group wore black coats every day and bragged of owning guns and of disliking Blacks and Hispanics. See id. Several students said that the two boys appeared to be gunning for minorities and athletes as they tore through their school.See id. The gunmen’s diary revealed that they had larger plans for mass terror including hijacking a plane and a desire to kill 500 people. See id. In addition, bomb-making materials and weapons were found in the bedroom of one of the boys. See id.

[6] “Media sensationalism has resulted in a false perception of the nature of conflict both in society in general and in schools. Although murder accounts for 0.4 percent of all reported crime, it accounts for nearly half of all TV news reporting. This bias in coverage is reflected in recent survey results showing 71% of Americans thought school shooting likely in their schools, despite the odds of a school-aged child being killed in school in 1998-1999 being one in two million.” Jeanne Asherman, Decreasing Violence Through Conflict Resolution Education in Schools, (last visited Mar. 15, 2002).

[7] See Symposium, School Violence, School Safety, and the Juvenile System Article: School Bells, Death Knells, and Body Counts: No Apocalypse Now, 37 Hous. L. Rev. 1, 2 (2000). During the 1990’s, parents, faculty and community members listed school conflict among their greatest concerns. See Lawrence T. Kajs et al., The Use of the Peer Mediation Program to Address Peer-to-Peer Student Conflict in Schools: A Case Study, 146 Ed. Law Rep. 605 (2000). A National School Boards Association (NSBA) survey of 2,000 school districts in 1993 indicated that over 80% of respondents believed school violence was worse in 1994 than in 1989. See id. These statistics exemplify the general belief that school violence has been on the rise despite contrary criminal evidence.

[8] See Susan L. Caulfield, Creating Peaceable Schools, 567 Annals 170, 171 (2000); see Shana Slater, Teens Help Peers Keep the Peace at (last visited Feb. 26, 2002). According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted shortly after the Columbine High School shooting, when 659 parents of school-aged children were asked if they fear for their children’s safety at school, 55% answered yes. See Poll: More Parents Worried About School Safety, at (Apr. 22, 1999) (last visited Feb. 8, 2003). This figure is compared to 37% in 1998 and 24% in 1977. See id.

[9] See William S. Haft & Elaine R. Weiss, Peer Mediation in Schools: Expectations and Evaluations, 3 Harv. Negot. L. Rev. 213, 214 (1998).

[10] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 2.

[11] See Julie Thomerson, School Violence: 10 Things Legislatures Need to know (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2000). Despite recent attention to school safety concerns, research shows that the level of violence in schools has been decreasing since 1993. The 1999 Annual Report on School Safetyindicates that the overall school crime rate has declined, and fewer students are carrying weapons or physically fighting on school grounds. The difference is that today’s school violence has become more lethal, due to increasing incidents that involve gunfire, fatalities and multiple victims. See id. 

Jeanne Asherman, in her article Decreasing Violence Through Conflict Resolution Education in Schools, reported that 77% of high schools, 74% of middle schools, and 45% of elementary schools reported witnessing one or more violent incidents during 1996-1997. See Asherman, supra note 6. Furthermore, Asherman reported that 10% of high school students reported carrying a weapon on school property for self-protection and 5% of high school students stayed home at least once in the month prior to the survey due to fear of school-related violence. See id. The Michigan Bar Association discussed this same finding in an article. “The fear of crime and violence has had an impact on youth far beyond what any previous generation has experienced. The survey found that 46 percent of young people have altered their behaviors because of their fear of crime and violence. They have cut classes, stayed home from school, carried guns, changed their routes to school, and stopped playing in neighborhood parks because of their fear.” Michigan Bar Association, Peer Mediation in the Classroom- A New Initiative for the State Bar of Michigan, 79 Mich. B.J. 1192 (Sept. 2000).

[12] Symposium, supra note 7, at 2-3.

[13] See A. Troy Adams, The Status of School Discipline and Violence, 567 Annals 140 (2000).

[14] See David C. Anderson, Curriculum, Culture, and Community: The Challenge of School Violence, 24 Crime & Just. 317 (1998).

[15] See id.

[16] See Adams, supra note 13, at 141.

[17] See id. at 319-320. “…[S]chool officials suggest that, while serious violence is not increasing in quantity, it is growing qualitatively worse, especially as students carry guns.” Id. “There is broad agreement among educators that the nature of school violence has changed for the worse in recent years…. The National School Boards Association survey asked districts if student violence had increased in the past five years. Eighty-two percent said it had either ‘increased significantly’ (35 percent) or ‘increased somewhat’ (47 percent), but many apparently felt the increase was more qualitative than quantitative.” 328-329.

In Battling School Violence with Mediation Technology, Hattal and Hattle discuss how before the twenty first century, public schools were only forced to deal with such problems as “truancy, covert smoking in the bathrooms, and teen pregnancy.” See Gary Richard Hattal and Cynthia Morrow Hattal,Battling School Violence with Mediation Technology, 2 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 357 (2002). Furthermore, these problems were only seen in higher grades and were viewed as “unfortunate but manageable incidents by ‘juvenile delinquents’ and disadvantaged inner-city teenagers.” Id. The authors of this article propose that post-twenty first century, public schools have become dangerous places where lethal incidents of juvenile violence occur among all social classes and races. See id. According to Hattal and Hattal, it is estimated that “28% of boys in America come to school every day armed with guns, knives, and other dangerous instruments for their own protection.” Id.

[18] See AP, School Shootings: A Deadly Pattern, at (last visited Feb. 26, 2002).

[19] See id.

[20] See Laura Beresh-Taylor, Preventing Violence in Ohio’s Schools, 33 Akron L. Rev. 311-312 (2000).

[21] See Keith Coffman, Prosecutor Hopes Tragedy Leads to Changeat (Apr. 17, 2000) (last visited Oct. 16, 2002).

[22] See Beresh-Taylor, supra note 20, at 315.

[23] See Adams, supra note 13.

[24] See id.

[25] See id.

[26] See id.

[27] Thomerson, supra note 11.

[28] Adams, supra note 13, at 142.

[29] See id. at 144.

[30] See id.

[31] See id.

[32] See id. at 144-145.

[33]See id at 145.

[34] See id. at 146. This shift from exclusionary discipline to in-school suspension was sparked by a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case, Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975). In this case, students in junior and senior high schools brought charges against their school district, alleging their right to due process had been violated by their school suspension. The court held that the students had a right to public education that must be preserved and that they had a right to due process of law. Hence, students must be given oral or written notice of the charges against them, with a reasonable amount of time to respond to the allegations; they must be given an opportunity to explain the evidence and present challenges; and are entitled to a hearing before an unbiased group. This case changes the educational policies toward discipline for several reasons. First, schools had to judiciously exclude students from school since doing so involved an abundance of paperwork to prove the due process was honored. Second, schools had to be careful of litigation that could arise and pubic scrutiny that could result. Third, they needed new methods to meet growing enrollment. See id.

[35] Zero-tolerance policies were enacted to combat the seemingly overwhelming increase in school violence. See Tobin McAndrews, Zero Tolerance Policies (Mar. 2001), at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002). In a 1995 School Crime Victimization Survey, 12 percent of responding students knew someone who had brought a gun to school. See id. Consequently, pressure increased on legislators to take action against weapons in schools. The result was the Gun-Free Schools Act passed by Congress in 1994, which required states to legislate zero-tolerance laws or risk losing federal funds. See id. Following enactment of the Gun-Free Schools Act, all 50 states adopted some variation of the law. Some states went beyond the focus on guns and decided to apply zero tolerance to all possible disciplinary infractions in an effort to standardize discipline and to deal with disruptive students. See id. The National Center for Education Statistics found that, after four years of implementation, zero-tolerance policies had little effect at previously unsafe schools. See id.

Supporters of such policies credit them with helping to make students feel safer in school. See Dennis Cauchon, Zero-tolerance Policies Lack Flexibility (last modified Apr. 13, 1999), at At the same time, such policies are criticized for being inflexible, harsh and lacking in common sense for their all-or-nothing approach. See id. Critics go even further to say that zero tolerance policies fail to differentiate between good kids who make typical mistakes and unruly delinquents. See id. The critics’ arguments might have some bite in that using such policies for pursuing silly cases undermines the credibility of the whole system. See id. As Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center says, “[z]ero tolerance simply means all misbehavior will have some sanction. It doesn’t mean you bring the maximum punishment for every transgression.” Id.

In the end, zero-tolerance as a form of punishment, fails to be effective for the same reasons all punitive methods fail. First, they alienate students from school when students are suspended, and second, those implementing the programs often fail to understand them and implement the programs incorrectly. See id. Furthermore, reliance of zero-tolerance policies as a response to misconduct “runs directly counter to a fundamental purpose of public education – the purpose of preparing children to live in a democratic society…. [D]ecisions to exclude or ostracize individuals from an institution specifically designed to prepare them to be productive members of out society is a grave one. As a result, exclusionary policies should be enforced as a last resort rather than as a first response.” See William Haft, More Than Zero: The Cost of Zero Tolerance and the Case For Restorative Justice in Schools, 77 Denv.U.L.Rev. 795, 797 (2000).

[36] See Adams, supra note 13, at 147.

[37] See Anderson, supra note 14, at 320. In Mieke Bomann’s article Students Say Shooting Response Should be Dialogue, Not Lockdown, he quotes a student from Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, “I think our main problem is that adults are trying to create solutions, and have forums, and are not including students. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Mieke Bomann, Students Say Shooting Response Should be Dialogue, Not Lockdownat (last visited Feb. 27, 2002). Bomann goes on to discuss the different perceptions of school social climates among administrators and parents versus students. See id. “Educators for Social Responsibility found that when program administrators and parents were asked to assess the overall climate of their workplace or child’s school, they generally saw it in a much more favorable light than did the students.” Id.

[38] See Karen M. Peart, Lessons in Survival; School Security Systems, Scholastic Update, Feb. 13, 1994, at 16. Use of metal detectors is ultimately ineffective since there are ways to “beat the system” and schools are often ill-equipped to scan all students. In a report on school-safety measures by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, metal detectors have no apparent affect on the number of injuries, deaths, or threats of violence on school grounds. Other studies point to the negative effects that metal detectors have on students’ attitudes towards schools. For example, Peart talks about Wingate High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York where students have their school bags x-rayed and stand on an electric mat that randomly flashes a red or green light where a red light means the student will be searched from head to toe by a metal detector before entering school. “Some Wingate students…say they feel like they are entering a prison when they go to school.” Despite the less than favorable results, a survey by the National School Board found that 15% of the 749 districts that responded to their questionnaire use metal detectors in some or all of their schools. See id.

[39] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 13-14 (Profiling involves the compilation of a list of characteristics designed to assist school staff in identifying potentially violent students about to commit a serious crime at school); see also Kelly Rozmus, Peer Mediation Programs in Schools: Resolving Classroom Conflict but Raising Ethical Concerns?, 26 J.L. & Educ. 69, 70 (1997).

“The National School Boards Association’s 1993 study identified 750 programs operating in its affiliated school districts…. The districts reported a variety of hard security measures to deter violence: 50 percent searched student’s lockers for contraband, 44 percent closed their campuses at lunch hour, 36 percent deployed school security officers and conducted regular searches of students, 32 percent required students to carry photo identification, and 24 percent had even brought in drug-sniffing dogs….” Anderson, supra note 14, at 334-335.

“Such measures have some effect. For example, when the Dayton, Ohio public school system installed metal detectors after a surge of expulsions for weapons carrying, such expulsions dropped from 200 in 1991-92 to 120 the following year…. New York City began scanning students with handheld metal detectors in 1988 and saw serious incidents in participating schools decline by 58 percent in three years, compared with a decline of 43 percent at other schools….” Id.

“But most school administrators are well aware that control measures, however necessary, are a limited response at best…. [B]y symbolizing the collapse of deans’ and teachers’ traditional authority, security guards and elaborate security technology do as much or more to encourage violence as to control it.” Id.

“The most common curricula approaches identified by the National School Boards Association were classes in conflict resolution, mediation training, or peer mediation (61 percent).” Id.

[40] See Caulfield, supra note 8, at 176. In School Violence Reduced When Students Participate in Problem Solving, Katherine E. Keough discusses her research on violence in schools. She found from her research that students will live up or down to the expectations adults have of them. See also Les Kozaczek, School Violence Reduced When Students Participate in Problem Solvingat (last visited Mar. 15 2002). “If students see adults accepting violence as a good solution to a problem, then they will emulate that violence…. The influence from adults can come from the home, the media, churches, schools and any other place where the child spends time.” Id.

[41] See Ann P. Daunic et al., School-wide Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation Programs: Experiences in Three Middle School, Intervention in School & Clinic, Nov. 2000, at 94. “[F]ew professionals would agree that punitive reactions to disruptive, violent, or aggressive acts teach appropriate behaviors or are effective in the long term.” Id.

[42] See Caulfield, supra note 8, at 177. In this article, Caulfield explores the work of Riane Eisler in Eisler’s book The Chalice and the Blade and applies it to the educational process. Eisler’s work defined the continuum of human possibilities as moving from a dominator model to a partnership model. See id. at 176. A shift to a dominator model is one “from a system leading to chronic wars, social injustice, and ecological imbalance to one of peace, social justice, and ecological balance.” Id. It is merely linking rather than ranking. See id. Eisler says that the use of the dominator model is the educational process excludes, harms, and leads to reactionary forms of domination. See id. Thus, it is difficult to justify a safe school plan that calls for additional use of domination as a way to control the school. See id.      Caulfield further looks to the work of John Devine, author of Maximum Security: The Culture of Violence in Inner-City Schools, who notes that “dominator control techniques of the modern school serve to further exclude and alienate those very students most at risk of getting involved in acts of violence.” id. Devine addresses how educational theory has moved to an approach that dichotomizes students into having a mind and a body. Under this theory, he believes that teachers are only focusing on the mind rather than engaging the complete student or reaching out to those that appear troubled. See id. The effect of this reluctance? An increase in the use of suspension and expulsion which clearly promote domination rather than partnership as Eisler talks about. See id. Caulfield cites to an example where a student skipped school for the first time and received a whole day of in-school suspension. Believing that this was not a fair punishment, the student “found herself having thoughts about how to get back at the school for what she perceived as mistreatment.” Id. This is much like Eisler’s dominator regression where the “…desire to not be dominated led to thoughts on how to dominate those who had treated her as inferior.” Id, at 176-177. In sum, a tool used to eliminate unwanted behavior actually provoked thoughts of violence. See id, at 177.

[43] Id.

[44] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 16.

[45] See id. at 176.

[46] See id.

[47] See id.

[48] See Beresh-Taylor, supra note 20, at 322.

[49] Adams, supra note 13, at 150.

[50] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 13.

[51] See Thomerson, supra note 11.

[52] See Rozmus, supra note 39, at 69. California voters enacted Proposition 8, the Safe Schools Provision, which preliminary judicial review interpreted to provide that “people committing crimes on school grounds should have fewer procedural rights and safeguards.” This proposition simplifies the process for formal prosecution of campus crimes. See id.

[53] Restorative justice is an interest-based model of conflict resolution that has been gaining ground in the United States. See Paul Clark, Restorative Justice and ADR: Opportunities and Challenges, 44 Advocate (Idaho) 13 (2001). Restorative justice focuses on conflict as opportunity, on empowerment, and transformation. See id. It emphasizes healing rather than punishment. See id. “Coupled with interest based mediation, restorative justice has the potential to resolve the conflict created by criminal behavior rather than simply punishing the wrongdoer and neglecting the victim.” Id.

The idea of restorative is not a mere novelty that has come about in reaction to recent events. According to Clark, it has “deep roots in the past cultures and religions around the world” and which has been a dominant model of criminal justice throughout most of human history. See id. Today, the tenets of restorative justice are more broadly known in Anglo culture. See id. However, the ideas have been a part of many cultures including the Zapatistas of Mexico and the Navajo Native Americans. See id.

The restorative justice programs in Anglo communities have some of the same principles. Clark states that “[c]rime is conceptualized as an offense against human relationships and only secondarily a violation of a law.” Id. at 15. “The goal is to ensure that community, victim and offender will emerge from the criminal justice system better off in terms of alienation, empowerment, and feelings of safety and cooperation than prior to the adjudication. By recognizing injustice, restitution can be made and grace dispensed making the future for the participants safer, more respectful and empowering them to cooperate with each other and society.” Id. This theory of punishment focuses on the needs of all parties- the victim, the community, and the offender. See id. According to Clark, the victim and community have needs for future safety and repair of the injury where as the offender has a need for recognition of the cause of the offense. See id.

[54] See id. A May 1995 Congressional report on the safety of national public schools reveals that most schools employ suspensions, discipline codes, and expulsion rather than preventative or educational programs in responding to school violence. See id. at 70.

[55] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 17; see also Adams, supra note 14, at 150.

[56] See Daunic et al., supra note 41, at 94.

[57] See Reece L. Peterson & Russell Skiba, Creating School Climates That Prevent School Violence, Preventing School Failure 44, Spring 2000, at 122, 127. Not only are schools making a move from traditional punitive forms of punishment to conflict resolution methods but so are juvenile incarceration facilities. See Linda Morton and Floralynn Einesman, The Effects of Mediation in a Juvenile Incarceration Facility: Reduction of violence Through Transformation, 49 Clev. St. L. Rev. 255 (2001). Such facilities were once known for brutal and oppressive conditions including the overuse of tranquilizing drugs, physical abuse, and extended solitary confinement. See id. at 258. More recently, juvenile detention facilities have tried to broaden their outlook on discipline. See id. According to Morton and Einesman, such facilities have begun to use alternative programs in addition to traditional punitive sanctions. Healthy Relationships, a pilot program employed by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in two facilities, focuses on anger and violence management and teaches responsibility and conflict resolution to young offenders. See id. These programs incorporate peer mediation programs. See id.

Morton and Einesman established the Juvenile Hall Mediation Program at California Western School of Law. See id. at 259. Morton and Einesman’s objective was to measure the ability of peer mediation to transform behavior. See id at 261. To measure this objective, Morton and Einesman looked at the extent to which the mediation experience developed self-empowerment and empathy in youth. id. The two propose that mediation can effect small levels of transformation in some residents of a juvenile detention facility and help reduce the violent proclivities of incarcerated youth through empowerment, self-determination, and moral development. See id. While Morton and Einesman found that they were to mediate 89% of all disputes and that offenders felt empowered and a greater levels of empathy, they did note that a mediation program was not a panacea. See id. at 268. “Even those residents who learned how to resolve conflicts more peacefully generally have personal issues that well exceed the capabilities of [the] mediation program.” Id.Additionally, it was noted in their study that even if the offenders have the skills necessary for reform, PMPs wont work if peaceful conflict resolution is not part of their home and street culture or even in their surroundings at juvenile hall. See id. at 269. As with school environments, Morton and Einesman noted that juvenile offender programs need to be more holistic in their implementation. See id. This includes education of residents, staff, family, and schools. See id.Furthermore, as with many school-based PMPs, the Juvenile Hall Mediation Program suffered from a lack of skill and understanding of adolescent development and violence on the part of the student mediators. See id. at 270. As Morton and Einesman noted, under these circumstances, even with an added trained mediator, slippage is inevitable. See id.

                  Results from the Juvenile Hall Mediation Program only confirm my proposal that PMPs are not the proper tool to combat higher levels of school violence.

[58] See Shana Slater, Teens Help Peers Keep the Peace, at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002).

[59] Haft, supra note 9, at 213.

[60] See Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide (Sept. 1996), at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002).

[61] Adams, supra note 13, at 150.

[62] See David W. Johnson & Roger T. Johnson, Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation Programs in Elementary and Secondary Schools: A Review of the Research, Review of Educational Research, Winter 1996, at 459.

[63] See Haft, supra note 9, at 220.

[64] See id. at 220-221. This program, in addition to empowering people to solve their own problems, sought to preserve and strengthen relationships in communities. See id.

[65] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 127.

[66] See Haft, supra note 9, at 221.

[67] See Peart, supra note 38, at 16.

[68] See Ronnie Casella, The Benefits of Peer Mediation in the Context of Urban Conflict and Program Status, Urban Education, Sept. 2000, at 324, 325. In teaching students how to deal with conflict, The Cooperative Learning Center, believes students need to learn about the desirability of conflicts when they are managed constructively. See David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, Teaching Students to be Peacemakers (Oct. 9, 2001), at (last visited February 8, 2003). Students are taught that a conflict-free life is impossible and undesirable and that conflict has many positive outcomes such as laughter, insight, learning, and problem-solving, when it is managed constructively. See id.

See also Morton Inger, Conflict Resolution Programs in School (Jan. 1991), at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002) “One of the long-term benefits of this new approach is that students, teachers, and parents can arrive at a change in attitude toward conflict: they progress from seeing it as either a problem to be swept under the rug or an opening for confrontation (both of which are harmful) to seeing it as a process that defines values and leads to growth.” Id.

[69] Id. According to David Keller Trevaskis, conflict is a normal, natural part of everyday life. See David Keller Trevaskis, Mediation in the Schools (Dec. 1994), at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002). “Conflict” is defined in Latin as “striking together” and according to Trevaskis, conflict is not synonymous with violence. See id. He does point out that “unresolved and lingering conflict frequently leads to violence, interfering with productivity and the quality of life in schools and the community.” Id.

[70] For restorative justice, of which PMPs are a part, conflict is a positive thing in that it provides for “the opportunity ‘to prevent greater evils, to confront crime with a grace that transforms human lives to paths of love and giving.’ In mediation, conflict provides an opportunity for ‘empowerment and recognition to change and transform the parties as human beings … from fearful, defensive, and self-centered beings into confident, open, and caring ones, ultimately transforming society from a shaky truce between suspicious enemies into a strong network of trusting friends.’” Clark, supra note 53.

[71] See Jerry Tyrrell et al., Schools: Lessons From the Agreement, 22 Fordham Int’l L.J. 1680 (1999). In a project by the Peer Mediation Programme of the Education for Mutual Understanding Promoting School Project at the University of Ulster which looked at the 1982 Department of Education advisory papers distributed to all teachers in Northern Ireland to aid in creating integrated schools, it was stated “that everyone in the education system ‘has a responsibility for helping children learn to understand and respect each other…. And of preparing them to live in adult life.’” Id.

[72] See Richard Cohen, Implementing a Peer Mediation Program, at (last visited Feb. 26, 2002).

[73] See id.

[74] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 127-128.

[75] See id.

[76] See id.

[77] See Kathiann M. Kowalski, Peer Mediation Success Stories, Current Health 2, Oct. 1998, at 13.

[78] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 127-128.

[79] See id.

[80] See Rozmus, supra note 39, at 71.

[81] See id.

[82] See id. at 71-87.

[83] See Daunic et al., supra note 41, at 94.

[84] See Rozmus, supra note 39, at 73.

[85] See id. at 74.

[86] See id.

[87] See id.

[88] See id. at 75.

[89] See id.

[90] See id.

[91] See id. at 74.

[92] See id. at 75.

[93] See id.

[94] See id.

[95] See id. In this article, Rozmus defines a dual system as a system where some types of problems are handled in mediation and other more serious disputes are handled by traditional methods of discipline. Rozmus suggests that when this dual system is used, the split may undermine the legitimacy of peer mediation. See id.

[96] See id. at 78-79. According to Rozmus’ article, part of educating the students and community includes ensuring that students know, or more importantly, feel that the PMP applies to them and not to a select group of students. See id. at 79. Rozmus suggests that this education can occur through school assemblies, role-plays, simulations, or class discussions. See id.

[97] See id.

[98] See id.

[99] See id.

[100] See id.

[101] See Rozmus, supra note 39, at 81.

[102] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 127. The first empirical study of PMP effectiveness, in terms of its scope and impact on the school culture, was conducted in 1986. In this study, a New York middle school with a disproportionate number of remedial students allowed researchers to conduct pre- and post-intervention questionnaires. The results showed a dramatic increase in positive attitudes towards resolving school problems and a 16.7% decrease in physical fights, a striking increase in self-esteem for peer mediators. See id. See also Rozmus, supra note 39, at 81.

[103] See David Keller Trevaskis, Mediation in the Schools (Dec. 1994), at (last visited Mar. 15, 2002). Other peer mediation programs report even higher rates of success, sometimes as high as 98.3%. See also Kowalski, supra note 78, at 13.

[104] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 127-128.

[105] See id.

[106] See id. at 127.

[107] See Kowalski, supra note 77, at 13. The EMU Promoting School Project reports from findings of PMPs over years of study and in many schools, that the programs were a demonstrable benefit to the children in terms of their self-confidence and enhanced peer relationships. PMPs had further benefited both children and teachers. See Tyrrell, supra note 71, at 1686.

[108] See Johnson, supra note 62, at 459, 472-473.

[109] See id.

[110] See Trevaskis, supra note 103. According to Trevaskis, rising incidents of violence have led schools to implement a variety of costly safety measures including metal detectors and police officers. See id. He suggests that such techniques may reduce violent acts but since they fail to attach the cause of the problem, they serve only to move the violence elsewhere in the community. See id. The best way to handle violence in schools is to prevent it from spreading into the community by diffusing disputes before they become violent. See id. This suggests that just because school grounds become safer through the use of metal detectors and the like, it does not mean the violence is gone. Students will still act out but just outside of the school context.

[111] See Casella, supra note 68, at 324, 327.

[112] See Peterson, supra note 57, at 122, 128.

[113] See Casella, supra note 68, at 324, 327.

[114] See id.

[115] Such issues at the root of many conflicts among city children include poverty, neglect, race, power, control and sexuality. When PMPs lose sight of the realities of life in poor cities, or whatever the students’ realities might be, PMPs join with other programs and policies that view youth misbehavior as essentially personal or individual matters. See id. at 324, 332.

[116] See id. at 324, 340.

[117] See Tyrrell, supra note 71, at 1680.

[118] See Haft, supra note 9, at 213.

[119] See Daunic et al., supra note 41, at 94. In one study of peer mediation programs in inner-city, low-class, minority primary schools during the 1991-1992 academic year, the study found that 81% of conflicts involved relationship problems characterized by physical aggression such as hitting, kicking, scratching and pushing, and verbal aggression such as name calling, insults and threats. In another peer mediation group evaluation in which 719 students in grades 5 through 12 and adults from 29 schools received training, the majority of conflicts referred to mediation involved verbal disagreements, physical fighting, and rumors. See id. See also Johnson, supra note 62, at 459, 467.

[120] While PMPs are a relatively recent development and have undergone some evaluation, research on the effectiveness of PMPs is still minimal. Evaluations range from “single-school surveys of teachers to district-wide, carefully researched studies of teachers, administration and students including control schools and other scientific insurers of reliability.” See Haft, supra note 9, at 218-219. Inadequacy of PMP evaluation exists for two reasons. First, rigorous and well-developed studies are rare. Secondly, “judging the degree to which the less tangible objectives of mediation have been achieved is difficult even when relatively well-prepared and properly implemented studies are performed.” Id. at 217-218. Many of the findings of such studies are based on comparative and informal research that is often subjective and testimonial in nature. See Peterson, supra note 57, at 81. Evaluation of such programs is limited to informal teacher observation and student-evaluation. These follow-up questionnaires are subject to bias from time gaps and from perceptions skewed by the power of suggestion. With findings that are not part of formal research, it makes it even harder to make comparisons between studies. Furthermore, most evaluations are not in-depth longitudinal studies but rather year-long studies. However, it is believed that noticeable changes from PMPs take several years to appear. As a result, current information regarding the effectiveness of such programs can be viewed as both promising and tenuous. The promising information derives from objective data regarding declines in suspension and violence at school where PM and other CR programs have been implemented. The tenuous conclusions result from instruments that rely on informal observation and self-evaluation to draw conclusions regarding the impact of mediation programs on how students deal with relationships. See Haft, supra note 9, at 217-218.                  Evaluations of PMPs fail for many reasons. See id. at 219. First, “schools are often financially limited in the funds they can devote to evaluation.” Id. Secondly, “logistics make it hard to coordinate school-wide surveys that generate a valid, representative response from a sufficient number of participants to yield reliable information.” Id. Third, “politically schools and outside organizations working with them to implement programs may have no incentive to evaluate, or even a disincentive to do so.” Id. Where administrators are trying to win school or parent support, inconclusive initial results might hinder this. Lastly, there is enormous pressure to depict PMPs as successful when they are implemented as a solution to chronic violence. See id.

[121] The University of Hawaii Program on Conflict Resolution (“UHPCR”) evaluated mediation programs in elementary, middle, and high schools in Hawaii. The programs three stated purposes were: “to determine the extent to which the Dispute Management in the Schools Project had been developed and operationally installed in a school complex; to examine the basic questions about the nature of disputes or conflict in the schools; and to determine the effects of the project upon the school’s climate or environment.” Haft, supra note 9, at 246. Tools used for the study included “questionnaires, interviews, school climate surveys, and profile reports for information such as attendance and suspension rates.” Id.

UHPCR is noted for taking a more systematic approach to evaluation of dispute resolution programs, becuase the study can offer more reliable information than others since it used comparison or control schools. Furthermore, “[b]oth the data collection and the school climate survey had a clear basis for comparison: the period before the schools established peer mediation.” Id. While this study relies on qualitative data, the data was rigorously collected and scrutinized. In addition, the group size was larger than other studies and the evaluation extended over a two-year period. See id. at 247. While the study produced mixed results, findings showed that “respondent schools continued to show a clear preference for continuing to offer the PMP.” Id. at 249. Staff, mediators, and disputants showed a 90% approval of mediation in the first year and over 85% in the second year. Questionnaires support the conclusion that mediation effectively resolved conflicts about misunderstandings, personality differences, and communication problems. However, the questionnaires showed mediation was “ineffective, however, for reducing violence, vandalism, and dropout rates.” Id. at 247. Overall, the study showed an apparent effectiveness of such programs. See id. However, results showed that mediation had no discernable impact on school climate. See id.

[122] See Johnson, supra note 62, at 459, 468.

[123] See John Ritter & Marty Kasindorf, Nobody Took Him Seriously: Oregon Student “Joked” He Would “Get People,”USA Today, May 22, 1998, at 3A. According to witnesses, at one point, Kip Kinkel approached a classmate cowering underneath a table, put a foot on the boy’s body, and shot him in the chest. See id. An investigation at Kinkel’s home revealed the bodies of his parents, several hundred rounds of ammunition, homemade explosives, fireworks, and bomb-making books. See id. Although Kinkel had frequently mentioned that it would be fun to kill, his friends said that he was no different than most students. See id.

[124] Mitchell Johnson bullied children to tears, bragged about being a member of Los Angeles gang, and warned his schoolmates that they would discover who would live and who would die. See Steve Mills, et al., Jonesboro Boys Called Angels- And Bullies: Adults Knew Pair as Good Kids; Children Saw a Darker Side, Chicago Tribune, Mar. 29, 1998, at 1. Andrew Golden was a bully and often threatened his neighbors while riding his bike. See id. On March 25, the two played hooky from school and with nine handguns and rifles, a crossbow, nine knives, camping gear and food, they hid in a trees and waited for their targets.See id.

[125] See Casella, supra note 68, at 324, 340.

[126] See id. at 344.

[127] See Keith Coffman, Prosecutor Hopes Tragedy Leads to Changeat (Apr. 17, 2000) (last visited Oct. 16, 2002).

[128] See id.

[129] See id.

[130] See id.

[131] See id.

[132] See Casella, supra note 68, at 324, 344.

[133] See id.

[134] See id.

[135] See Thomerson, supra note 11. Several organizations developed this list of risk factors to aid in identifying at-risk youth and, ultimately to prevent school violence. Other organizations such as the FBI and the National Association of School Psychologists, under the commission of President Clinton, created similar lists citing cause for concern when children exhibit uncontrolled anger, social isolation, disinterest in school, poor academic performance, expression of violence in drawings or writings, or persistent discipline problems. See id.

In the case of the shooting at Columbine High School, if administrators, teachers and parents had paid attention, they would have seen that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris possessed practically all of these signaling characteristics. See Gary Caskey, New Ways to Killat (last visited Mar. 15, 2002). Both boys were members of the “Trench Coat Mafia,” which was known among students as an anti-social organization that was pro-gun, anti-religion, anti-society, and anti-minority. Students reported that the group was “a vocally bitter, nihilistic and a dissatisfied group that was often the butt of other students’ jokes.” Id. In this article, one expert from the Peace Education Foundation suggested that the boys “found a violent way of coping and attached a sense of rationality and pleasure to it.” Id. For the two boys, it was part of their everyday school routine to be made fun of for their unusual dress, for their isolation from the rest of the student body and for their bizarre outbursts. See Jonathan Dube, High School Hellat (Apr. 23, 2000) (last visited Mar. 15, 2002). “They were treated like scum- teased, insulted, ostracized.” Id. It was commonplace to see the popular jocks cut in front of them on lines, to throw trash at them, walk into them as if they didn’t even exist, or even push them up against lockers. See id. “Students say it was obvious the kids who wore trench coats felt alienated. Some of them had written phrases on their backpacks such as ‘Die Jock Die’ and ‘I hate everyone.’” Id. Was it really any surprise that these two students would exact revenge on that Tuesday morning, coincidently Hitler’s birthday? Other students were all to well aware of them and the signs were there. If parents, teachers and administrators had looked for the signs, 13 lives could have been saved. See id.

[136] See Pamela Orpinas et al., Critical Issues in Implementing a Comprehensive Violence Prevention Program for Middle Schools, Education and Urban Society, Aug. 1996, at 456, 467.

[137] See id.

[138] See id.

[139] See Casella, supra note 68, at 324, 340.

[140] See id.

[141] John Braithwaite in his article Education, Truth, Reconciliation: Comment on Scheff, comments on the ineffectiveness of PMPs. See John Braithwaite,Education, Truth, Reconciliation: Comment on Scheff, 67 REV. JUR.U.P.R. 609 (1998). While he discusses PM in reference to the low-violence act of school bully, his comments are relevant in showing how PM is not always the answer when are dealing with higher levels of school violence. “[E]vidence suggests that peer mediation of bullying in schools are among the most ineffective restorative justice programs. On the other hand, whole school approaches to a dialoge that confronts bullying with the involvement of parents and teachers show reduction of bullying up to 50 percent.” Id.

[142] At a symposium presented by the Cardozo Online Journal of Conflict Resolution, one panelist, Ms. Vaughn, described her views of PMPs in schools: “…maybe its not a ten year vision, but maybe it’s a 25 year vision. Children in nursery school will begin to problem solve in a different way, because their teachers do. As they go through school, they’ll begin to solve many more problems. They won’t need to take those problems to lawyers. But when they do need to take problems to lawyers, they will have lawyers who also have learned to solve problems in a more collaborative way…. As the children grow up, as they carry the message home, the school based peer mediation effort becomes a very powerful move.” Symposium, The State of States: Dispute Resolution in the Courts, 1 Cardozo Online J. COnfl. Resol. 4 (1999/2000). Ms. Vaughn’s comment hits on the point the PMPs are useful, not as a reactionary tool, but as a seed to begin the process of evolving society as a whole to deal with conflict in more socially appropriate ways. See id.

[143] See Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide, supra note 60.

[144] See Centre for Conflict Resolution, at (last visited February 8, 2003).

[145] See id.

[146] See id.

[147] Id.

[148] See Johnson, supra note 68. The Cooperative Learning Center’s Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program (“TSP”) is perhaps the best example of curriculum infusion. See id. TSP is a 12-years program “…in which each year students learn increasingly sophisticated negotiation and mediation procedures.” Id. TSP focuses on “teaching all students how to value constructive conflict, engage in problem-solving and integrative negotiations, and mediate classmates’ conflicts.” Id. The goal is to significantly change the way students manage their conflicts for the rest of their lives. See id. The results of this 12-year study showed that “students tend to learn the problem-solving negotiations and peer mediation procedures, apply them in actual conflict solutions, and transfer their use to non-classroom and non-school situations.” Id. Johnson and Johnson reported that this training seems to increase academic achievement. See id.

[149] A different, but similar, form of mediation is called victim-offender mediation. See Haft, supra note 35, at 797. Victim-offender mediation is a particular form of restorative justice. See id. Restorative justice is based on principles that offenders should be held “strictly accountable for their conduct while seeking to repair and restore the integrity of the school community after an offense has occurred.” Id. at 805. This model “requires a distinct shift away from the current emphasis on punishing the offender.” Id. This type of “punishment” focuses as much attention to the victims of a crime, including the community, as to the offender. See id. This type of justice system requires a solution where the offender is held accountable, not for punishment, but for reconciling, repairing, and reassuring the victims. See id.      Victim-offender mediation is one of the clearest processes used to achieve restorative justice. See id. at 806. The central component of this type of mediation is that it is between the crime victim and the criminal offender. See id. However, often included in this are members of the victimized community. See id. As with PM, victim-offender mediation involves “face-to-face, non-adversarial, informal and voluntary meetings in a safe environment.” Id. In this mediation, “victims have an opportunity to express directly to the offender their feelings about the offense and its impact. In addition, they are often eager to ask the offender questions in order to understand why and how the event occurred. The victim frequently describes the offense’s impact on his or her life. Both parties can express feelings, elaborate on facts, discuss consequences, and pursue a resolution….” Id. As in the case of PM, a resolution is put into writing. See id.

Victim-offender mediation is quite appropriate in a school setting because the goals of the two are the same: strive to prepare children to become capable and productive members of society. See id. In schools, this type of mediation seeks to reintegrate the offender back into the school community rather than further exiling the student, which only increases the potential for “separation, resentment, and repeated offenses.” Id. Furthermore, it appears that victim-offender mediation may have advantages over PM. It goes on a basic assumption that there is a limitation to the types of conflict that should be mediated. See id. While many studies on PM, have concluded that PM is not amenable to all situations, PM does not work off the premise, and therefore often overlooks it, that some types of offenders should face traditional methods of discipline. See id.

[150] See Symposium, supra note 7, at 17.